Moral Responsibility for Concepts

European Journal of Philosophy 26 (4):1381-1397 (2018)
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Abstract

I argue that we are sometimes morally responsible for having and using (or not using) our concepts, despite the fact that we generally do not choose to have them or have full or direct voluntary control over how we use them. I do so by extending an argument of Angela Smith's; the same features that she says make us morally responsible for some of our attitudes also make us morally responsible for some of our concepts. Specifically, like attitudes, concepts can be (a) conceptually and rationally connected to our evaluative judgments, (b) in principle subject to rational revision (reasonsā€responsive), and (c) the basis for actual and potential moral assessments of people that we have good reasons to endorse. Thus, we are open to moral appraisal on the basis of having and using (or not using) our concepts when they reflect our evaluative judgments, though even then it is not always appropriate to praise or blame us on that basis.

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Rachel Fredericks
Independent Scholar

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